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Nets 117, Magic 115: Nets use Gordon’s injury to erase 21-point Magic lead

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The Orlando Magic led late in the third 95-81, but Aaron Gordon’s back injury gave the Nets the momentum boost they needed to steal the win

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Orlando Magic Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Another heartbreak.

After losing in overtime to the Detroit Pistons, the Nets climbed back from a deficit that grew as high as 21 points, to steal the victory with Aaron Gordon watching helplessly from the bench in the fourth due to lower back tightness.

Gordon was the fulcrum that led the Magic throughout. His 23 points and +14 plus/minus would have been a welcome addition as the Magic’s defense fell apart late in the third and throughout the fourth.

Up by 14, 95-81, with 1:42 to play in the third, the Magic looked on as the Nets continued to cause destruction from beyond the perimeter. It was Napier, Dinwiddie and Graham launching threes to bring the game within four at the 8:53 mark of the third, erasing much of their lead in less than five minutes.

Spencer Dinwiddie’s four-point play was followed by yet ANOTHER D’Angelo Russell three (his eighth) giving the Nets their largest advantage of the game since 2-0, 116-113.

The Magic would have the chance to tie it as Terrence Ross was fouled on a three-point shot down by just three, but he would miss the second of his three shots, and that seemed to be enough for the Nets to steal the victory on the road.

Spencer Dinwiddie would breathe life into the Magic for a moment as he missed one of his free-throw attempts on the other end, giving the Magic hope, down 117-115.

But with 9.6 seconds remaining, Evan Fournier’s game-tying runner at the rim would fall short.

”It was him (Fournier) or Terrence (on final play),” Steve Clifford said. “He made a good play, ball just didn’t go down. Our last four shots were good. If you’re gonna win a game like this, you’re gonna make a couple of ‘em.”

The Nets were led by the unstoppable force that was D’Angelo Russell, and his 40 points on 8/12 from three-point range. Russell punished the Magic throughout, with 24 points in the first-half much of it closely contested by Evan Fournier.

Dinwiddie piled in 20 of his own, including the game deciding free throws.

The Magic came out hot again as has been their custom lately, and were effective from the field throughout finishing an even 50% from the floor.

A 33-25 first-quarter advantage quickly ballooned to as much as 21 points, following a 25-7 run that came from everywhere in the second quarter.

It was ten first quarter points from DJ Augustin, including back-to-back threes. He and Gordon combined for 21 in the period on 8/11, and while five turnovers (two from DJ) would keep the Brooklyn within spitting distance, the Magic got the jolt they needed from the bench, and specifically, Mo Bamba.

Bamba entered late in the first quarter, and scored seven points on his first four shots, including a wild cock-back slam and back-to-back 20-footers, one being a 24-foot three point shot from the top of the key.

He was also active defensively. After misplaying a runner from a challenged Rondae Hollis-Jefferson that resulted in an easy put back for Ed Davis, he responded by with a swat that gave Wes Iwundu an opportunity for a crowd rising dunk on the other end.

It was high levels of activity on both ends that gave the Magic a 30-18 advantage on the boards, including eight first-half offensive rebounds to just three for the Nets. The Magic shot a comfortable 53% from the field while holding the Nets to just 43%.

But D’Angelo Russell kept the Nets within striking distance with six converted three-pointers on eight tries and 24 first-half points!

Evan Fournier earned the assignment throughout and did his best to mitigate the destruction on both ends, but Russell would not be denied, often forcing up contested shots late in the shot clock and converting!

Gordon drew the assignment of the high energy, sharpshooting Joe Harris, and helped to limit him to just 11 points on 4/13 shooting due to Gordon’s tenacious energy.

Fournier would halt the Nets 17-7 run late in the second with a tough fadeaway over the aforementioned Joe Harris followed by an and-1 opportunity conversion to score five quick points.

The Nets and Magic would go back and forth in the third, with the Nets overpowering the home squad 32-28, but the Magic responded to every run with one of their own. Gordon, Vucevic, Fournier and DJ would all climb into double-digits, but Russell would score nine more as Dinwiddie and Napier joined the party.

Late in the third, Gordon appeared to tweak his back, taking his game-leading +14 off the floor with him, and the Nets used the disadvantage to take a 15-5 run shortening the gap to but four points, 100-96.

Gordon would briefly return and hit a three, before heading back to the bench promptly. He was obviously grimacing as he trotted up and down the court, and would exit at the end of the next possession, not to return.

“It’s Aaron’s lower back. We’ll know more tomorrow.” - Steve Clifford

Fournier and Augustin would take over in his stead and with 4:04 remaining, but with an 111-105 advantage would proceed to fall apart.

The Nets late 12-4 run brings the Magic back into the pack of the Eastern Conference and gives the Nets a healthy five wins over the Magic. The Magic now trail the eighth-seeded Hornets by two games in the East.

Gordon led the Magic with 23 points, five assists, and four blocks, while Augustin had 17 points, Vucevic 16 points and 17 rebounds, Fournier finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and three steals, and Ross had 13.

Mo Bamba played 15 minutes and impressed in his time with nine points, four rebounds, one assist and one block to go along with a +11 plus/minus.

Notes:

On what could have been a celebratory night, Aaron Gordon continued to build on his legacy in Orlando surpassing fan-favorite J.J. Redick early in the first-quarter.

Next, the Magic host Giannis Antetokounmpo and the East-leading Milwaukee Bucks, Saturday night at 7 pm eastern.